Blurred boundaries: exploring textile heritage of the Khasi Bhoi, Karbi and Khat-ar Lyngdoh of the Ri Bhoi district in Meghalaya, Northeast India
This article explores scenarios of blurred boundaries between ethnic cultures in the Ri Bhoi District of Northeast (NE) India. These geographical and social spaces are where shared experience defi nes the people as much as their ethnic group, and where cultural assimilation or transmission has been taking place over many generations. The case study of this article is an empirical study of cultural transmission through the example of textiles and traditional textile technology. It explores transmission of knowledge and skill across the Khasi Bhoi, the Karbi and the Khat-ar Lyngdoh ethnic communities of the Ri Bhoi District of Meghalaya, and transmission of cultural aesthetics in terms of garment, cloth and motif. The fluidity of the textile culture between these communities in the Ri Bhoi District is striking, with designs borrowed, traditional technology adopted and tricks of the trade shared, leading to a shared textile heritage of the Ri Bhoi District existing alongside their distinct ethnic identities. The case study sits as a micro example of scenarios that are played out across the region, exploring the notion of an ethnic identity of NE India that transcends political and state boundaries, of identities at a time individual yet communal, ethnically distinct yet aligned as a region.